We caught up with Anjum Shahzad, the director of Mah e Mir, during his visit to Lahore for the film’s promotion. We spoke with him about Mah e Mir, his two other film projects and the rebirth of cinema in Pakistan.
Here is the exclusive interview of the prolific director.
Your three films are in pipeline including Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai, Band Tu Ab Baje Ga and about to be released Mah e Mir. All of these films are entirely different as one is romantic, the other one is comedy and Mah e Mir is a period drama. In which genre do you feel yourself more comfortable and which one of them is your favorite film?
If you have followed my work for TV then you would realize that I don’t work in one genre. I enjoy working in different genres as a film and TV director. If I like a script then its genre does not matter much as I take it as a challenge and make it done. I enjoyed working in all the three formats or genres, even though Mah e Mir is also a romantic drama but Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai is more family drama. Whereas, Band Tu Ab Baje Ga is an outright pagalpan (madness) and a romantic comedy film. I had no issue with working in any of these formats and I enjoyed all of them.
Mah e Mir looks like an off-beat film, as far as what it looks from the trailer we have seen. Do you think the audience is ready for an off-beat film like Mah e Mir?
I think we underestimate the audience. We should market the film in such a way that people are mentally prepared for the film when they arrive cinema. I always say that the role of the media and bloggers like you is very important and it matters how do they support the film. If they make the audience mentally prepared for the genre of the film, then the film becomes digestible to them.
This film apparently looks very serious one, but its not like that as it is youth’s film. It is the story of Jamal, a youngster, and it contains all the elements an intelligent viewer seeks for in a good film. Its subtext is very strong and many good ideas are discussed in it. It is very interesting film with very strong performances.
You had worked with Iman Ali earlier. Were Fahad Mustafa and Sanam Saeed your first choices for the roles in Mah e Mir?
Fahad has also worked with me in the start. Fahad is a friend, more like a brother. His potential as an actor is tapped, according to me, only to its fifty percent. He is an amazing actor. He was my first choice as he possesses a great range and flexibility characteristic to an actor.
As far as Sanam is concerned, we all believe that Sanam Saeed is a brilliant actor. We needed an intelligent, sensible and devoted actress for this role and Sanam demonstrated all of these qualities through her performance on the screen. I really enjoyed working with Sanam.
Iman is an old friend and Iman could never have refused me. (Momin interrupted saying, “yeah Iman told she could not refuse you.” and Anjum restarted) I am really thankful to her as she thinks like this for me. The way she looked gorgeous on the screen and the way she performed in the film, it has made the film spectacular.
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Which is your favorite film released recently since the revival of cinema in Pakistan?
I disagree with the word revival as I call it the rebirth of cinema in Pakistan and its first milestone was Na Maloom Afraad which encouraged many other filmmakers. In the context of popular cinema, I would add Jawani Phir Nai Ani with Na Maloom Afraad in the list.
I enjoy all types of films. As you cannot eat same food every day, similarly, I enjoy watching cinema with variety. I watch every new film just to see what does it offer.
For example, I was entertained by Manto which people might label as a serious film. I also liked Moor which many believed was also a serious film but it was sent for the Oscars consideration from Pakistan as it had some substance. And then we have Wrong No. and Karachi Se Lahore. All of these films belong to different genres and as a viewer you should watch all types of films. I watched all of these films and I liked something in each of them.
What is the update on your upcoming films Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai amd Band Tu Ab Baje Ga?
Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai is expected to be released on or after Eid ul Fitr by Geo Films. I am expecting a lot from it, as its very emotional family romantic drama. Feroze Khan and Sajal Ali has performed remarkably in it. Even the child star in this film has also done a great job.
We will start the shooting of Band Tu Ab Baje Ga in November (2016) and it will continue till January (2017). Its casting process has initiated. Its script is written by Yasir Hussain, who also wrote (the script of) Karachi Se Lahore. Fahad Mustafa and Dr. Ali, his partner in Big Bang Productions, are co-producing it with ARY Films.
I am expecting a lot from these two films.
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You have worked with all the three key players of film making in Pakistan: Geo, Hum and ARY. Which one of them do you think is more professional?
The producers of Mah e Mir Badar and Khurrum Rana (Hum Films) are my friends. You can create a comfort zone wherever you work and when you have spent some time then you get some autonomy as well. I am very lucky that the people I have worked with have always provided me with the comfort zone.
What is your message to the fans and why should they watch Mah e Mir?
If you are a fan of Fahad Mustafa, or a fan of Iman Ali, or a fan of Sanam Saeed, or a fan of Sarmad Sehbai, or a fan of Manzar Sehbai, or even mine then you must watch this film. You should not watch this film for patriotism or just for the sake of supporting Pakistani cinema. You should watch it as it is a good film and you will really enjoy it.
Interview conducted by: Momin Ali Munshi
Transcription and editing by: Zeeshan Mahmood